Monday, August 31, 2015

On Silent Reading

Interesting excerpt on the idea of silent reading, followed by a few comments by me:


...I found parts of this excerpt interesting, other parts puzzlingly discursive. 

I liked the tracing of reading over time from communal and familial to private and solitary. And I liked the descriptions of the dialectic between the reader's inner voice, as the manifestation of the self, and the author's. At times I found Biguenet conflating "silent reading" as a metaphor with it as a phenomenon. And it's just me but I'm not very interested in speculation on the physiology of reading. Other than seeing the fluid interplay between self and writer, as manifest in his text, when reading, I have a clear idea of what silent reading is and that it is indeed silent.

This interested me for among two main reasons:

....So I couldn’t read. My ability to write, though, was undiminished by the psychological trauma of seeing my hometown destroyed. Returning to the city five weeks after the levee collapses, our house uninhabitable, we slept in a daycare center without hot water, where—seated on a twelve-inch-high blue plastic chair with my portable computer resting on a barely taller red plastic table—I wrote fifteen columns for The New York Times...

The first reason is that I've always maintained art provides no solace from afflicting sadness or anxiety. As Biguenet notes, we must be able to subside our selves in order to give ourselves over to another's text. His inability to read after Katrina's devastation is understandable in these terms, even over a long time. Almost by definition, an afflicted self will find no solace in art, I argue, because the afflicted self is the understandably self-consumed self. 

The second reason is the paradox of being able to write but not being able to read as noted as quoted. My guess as to the reason for this is, I'm assuming, writing columns was a job, something that had to be done to meet a deadline and to earn some money, whereas when there was, as I assume, no obligation, no practical need, to read, there is nothing to surmount affliction's block. I can think of times in my life when I was distressed or grieving or heart broken such that art held no sway for me but I could still do my work, which involved reading and writing, among other things. I'd think that If Biguenet was writing columns he could, for example, surmount his affliction enough to proofread them and edit what he wrote.

I imagine against my theory one could cite the instance of writer's block, when the self rebels against sacrificing itself to what's there at hand for any number of reasons. All I can think about that, at the moment, is that writer's block is specific problem within the realm of what one must do, such as writing columns, as opposed to the broad distinction Biguenet describes between being unable to read out of a grieving, afflicted  self and being able to write at the behest of obligation. ...

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Planned Parenthood: A Few Thoughts

I want to try to sort out a little some of the issues in the released PP videos.

The controversy is harvesting and selling the partially  formed body parts of legally aborted fetuses.

There are technical issues of not amending abortion procedures to enable harvesting and sale and there are technical issues of non profits profiting beyond cost from the sale of these body parts. 

I want to set those to the side.

The question I want to ask: why the outrage?

From the perspective of pro choicers, which I'm one up to a point, legal abortions in the main don't involve taking a life as such. They deal with an inchoate fetal mass, the parts of which can be put to beneficial, possibly life saving, medical use. 

So is someone eating a salad and drinking wine while discussing either in mercantile terms or in medical--procedural terms lawful harvesting and sale doing something offensive given the context of legal abortions? 


When people consensually give up their organs on death or in life for medical purposes, would we be aghast if the legal harvesters and sellers/disposers of these organs speak straightforwardly and without reverence about their medical and transactional processes while eating and drinking? Especially if this less than reverent talk is done in the expectation of privacy. Entrapping people so who act lawfully and think they're off record is outrageous.

I'd think this analogy holds for most legal abortions. I assume the mother has consented to the abortion provider so dealing with the fetal parts. (Absent such consent, I can see there being a different range of ethical arguments flowing from that absence.) If I can consent to what is to be lawfully done for medical good with my removed tonsils, appendix, other organs, whether I'm dead or am alive after surgery, why not consented to dealing with fetal parts? 

What's the difference? 

Of course from the standpoint of those who hold life begins at conception, there's no answering them if their premises are granted.

So the answer to the conflict in arguments flowing from mutually exclusive premises is what the law provides, which generally is an unobstructed right to abort in the first trimester, which right gets grey some time into the second trimester, and which gets further weaker and weaker as the mother moves closer to full term.

For all of that, I can see the outrage for post first trimester abortions, for abortions past the point of fetal viability. Because, then, the tragedy, seen as the clash of two rights, manifest in post first trimester abortions gets acutely joined: the right of a developing baby, a life, so to speak, and the right of a woman over her own body. 

What animates the outrage for post first trimester harvesting and selling is the irreducible sense that a life, a baby, is being killed. It's not the unobjectionable brass tacks, irreverent private discussions about process, medical and financial, as such. It's that talk in the context of that irreducible sense.